Miami – Downtown Miami: Gesù Church
Image by wallyg
Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Adelantado of Florida and founder of St. Augustine, landed here at the chief village of the Tequesta Indians early in 1567. He returned several Indians held captive on the West Coast and established friendly relations with the Tequesta chief. Father Juan Rogel and brother Francisco Villareal organized a Jesuit mission near the thirty, man fort built by the Spanish. Brother Villareal wrote the first letter known to have been written in Miami – 1568, and described the life of the Indians, complained of the mosquitoes and recorded the first plays staged in this area, one a religious comedy about the flesh and the devil.
Gesù Church was founded in 1896 as the Holy Name Parish by Father Ambrose Fontan and is the oldest Catholic Church in Miami. A new church was constructed in 1897 on land donated by Henry Flagler, but the parish quickly outgrew the small wooden church. The current church building, at 118 Northeast Street, was built in 1925 to the design of Orin T. Williams.
The external simplified Mediterranean revival style exterior is distinguished by a monumental triple-arched portico, crowned by a tripartite bell tower with triple decorative arches. The rich interior decoration, in the Baroque decorative tradition, was not completed until the 1950’s.
Gesu Church continues to serve as one of the three downtown churches and was recently restored to its original appearance. The parish has been staffed by the Jesuits of Antilles province since 2004. Previously it was staffed by the Jesuits of New Orleans province.
National Register #74000617 (1974)
Downtown Miami Historic District #05001356 (2005)